Monday, January 10, 2011

Beyond Double Standards: Audre Lorde wasn't "Queer"-identified. She was out as a Lesbian. Now, what is it called if White Gay and Trans People Don't Honor and Respect Her Naming of Herself? Lesbophobic? Misogynist? Racist? Anti-feminist? All of these?

photograph of Lesbian poet Audre Lorde is from here
20 Jan. 2011 Addendum:  My objection to Audre Lorde being called "Queer" is not directed at anyone in The Audre Lorde Project. It comes from other sources--online, not in NYC, and I'll link to them so you have some context for what I'm addressing and analysing. Are Black women entitled to name themselves? Or once they are dead is it fine for anyone at all to call Black women by other names that erase much of what they fought hard and lived hard to accomplish in constructing their own identities?

See, for example, from *here*:

A fascinating feature of the book involves its inclusion of a striking variety of responses to threat that women have offered. The collection contains accounts of women's militance, rage, flight, unyieldingness, apathy, passion, breakdowns, and banding together, either in couples or larger groups. Couples find a prevalent place in the book, particularly in the convergence of partnership and eroticism. Lorde celebrates queer sexuality while she cites the realities of discrimination and "bashing." One exemplary poem is "Outlines," in which Lorde explores a relationship between "a Black woman and a white woman / with two Black children" (12).

See also, this, from Wikipedia:
Audre Geraldine Lorde (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was a Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist. [Hmmm. No mention of her being a LESBIAN, or, even "queer". -- Julian]
See this, also from Wikipedia:
The Audre Lorde Project is a Brooklyn, New York-based organization for queer people of color. The organization concentrates on community organizing and radical nonviolent activism around progressive issues within New York City, especially relating to queer and transgender communities, AIDS and HIV activism, pro-immigrant activism, prison reform and organizing among youth of color. It is named for the queer poet and activist Audre Lorde and was founded in 1994. [the bold and enlarged text was made so by me, Julian to note the lesbian-invisibilising portion of the paragraph]
See also these two quotes:

“When we define ourselves, when I define myself, the place in which I am like you and the place in which I am not like you, I’m not excluding you from the joining — I’m broadening the joining.”
Audre Lorde in Sister Outsider

“If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” -- Audre Lorde

I have read Audre Lorde refer to herself and other lesbian women of color, referring back to the 1950s, as  gay-girls. And later she was out as a lesbian and a feminist. Never, ever, had I heard her identify herself as "queer". As if we needed more signs that queer/trans/gay/het culture is eradicating lesbian-feminist existence, this is it. We already are well aware that dominant WHM society will ignore, appropriate, or destroy Black lesbian existence to its own ends, often to turn people's lives into two-dimensional pornography or to tokenise individual Black lesbian activists so as to appear "inclusive", such as when mentioning Barbara Smith, Cheryl Clarke, or Audre Lorde during Women's History Month or Black History Month in the Academy. Or to refuse to mention the values and activist aims of any Black lesbian feminist, on television or in any dominant corporate media dealing with social justice and human rights. 

When is the last time Democracy Now featured a Black lesbian feminist speaking about white male supremacy as a central problem? Probably the last time they had Angela Davis or Alice Walker on their show, actually. But one or two people isn't enough to represent the richness of Black lesbian feminism. I wish it were the case that we could hear from ONLY one white het man on any given social issue, and that would be considered sufficient.

Liberals and even some progressives tell me there's room at the table for all of us. But what I've noticed is the table is designed to only allow just so many, and if you are white and male, there's more room for you than if you're neither. If you're pro-white and pro-male, there's more room for you than if you're neither. If you're pro-racism and pro-misogyny, if you're pro-appropriation of the cultures and experiences of people of color, and pro-appropriation of women's cultures and experiences, there's also room at that table. And guess who folks with white and male privileges expect to serve them at any table?

It appears to me that there isn't room at the White Liberal Queer/Trans/Gay-dominated table for lesbians of color. No room at the table. Not even the kitchen table any more. Nor is there room for radical lesbian feminists of any color.

What will it take for the values and activism of radical lesbian feminists of all colors to be honored and respected? Will it take having governments respect and acknowledge girl-raised lesbians as a specifically gendered social-political group deserving of civil and human rights protections, including the right to not be invaded and appropriated by non-lesbians and anti-feminists?

While the person named below supports a withdrawal of lesbian time and money from The Audre Lorde Project, I don't. I don't support any form of boycott of The Audre Lorde Project by anyone given that it works to assist people with far fewer privileges than most lesbians and gay males I know; and the people who benefit from the Project also have far fewer privileges than most of the media spokespeople for queer and trans communities or activist efforts to reduce exploitation and violence against queer-identified people and against lesbians who do not necessarily identify as queer.

[Portions edited out by moi, the author, for being unnecessary, inappropriate, and stupidly racist--that's my racism, no one else's.]

It is important to me, as someone who seeks to support women of all colors who act from radical feminist analyses and ethics, that Black Lesbian Feminism not be erased from herstory in the name of "inclusion" or to make a political group become more "queer-friendly". In my experience, without exception, making a group that was formerly explicitly pro-lesbian feminist into one which is more "queer-friendly" inevitably means that group has become more male supremacist, more anti-lesbian, and more anti-radical feminist.

For more on the unwelcome male supremacist return of "GLBT", see *here*. For related posts, see
A Response to "Transphobic and Racially Confused" by Brandon Lacy Campos to Dirtywhiteboi67 and Our Civil Rights are Not Enough: Beyond Queer Inclusion to Liberation from CRAP.

See the following for what prompted me to post about this. You may click on the title below to link back to the source site. Everything below was written by a person who names herself online with this word: Dirt.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lesbian Only and Lesbian Student Only Orgs

I spent several hours yesterday searching Lesbian/Student Lesbian only organizations and found none. I will continue to look and if I do find any or if you happen across any email me them and I will keep that list at the side. But while searching and coming up empty, my searches werent a total bust, I found out that according to wiki, Audre Lorde is now a queer poet and activist! Oh really, does the deceased LESBIAN poet and activist Audre Lorde know this? Does she also know her name is being used for this "project"...???

Using a LESBIAN activist's name, claiming to be for the "queer" alphabet soup, yet its front page picture clearly illustrates just what this "project" is all about: TRANS.

The Audre Lorde Project is another deceptive organization utilizing a famous black LESBIAN for its deceptive needs.

If you are interested in helping lesbians, do NOT donate your lesbian time or lesbian money to this "project". This is another org. who needs to alter their name to reflect their true goals.


Our Civil Rights are Not Enough: Beyond Queer Inclusion to Liberation from CRAP

image of a queer march on Washington, DC is from here

I've been reviewing how some in our community are telling our stories. I've had occasion to view After Stonewall, a 1999 documentary about queer struggles from 1969 through the rest of that century, primarily in the U.S., but also in places like Australia and South Africa. What is reflected in film is demonstrated in life: civil rights, while necessary and worth fighting for, cannot and ought not be the sum total goal of any radical social justice work, because any sustainable form of justice can't exist inside a society which requires poverty, genocide, trafficking, and rape to continue unchallenged.

If you have the chance to see After Stonewall, note especially Barbara Smith's observation about the third Lesbian, Gay, and Bi March on Washington. When our celebrations are about finding routes into two of the most racist, patriarchal institutions on Earth: marriage and the military, surely the oppressors have won. Because if we determine victory, or freedom, by the measure of how thoroughly we can be welcomed into dominant society we missed our most important objectives, to dismantle dominant society.

I have been told by many people across many political spectrums that my refusal to support Equal Marriage Laws--meaning, specifically, that I won't work to pass them and I also won't work to oppose them--is anti-gay and homophobic. When someone shows me how marriage does anything liberatory for girls and women globally--liberatory, as in radically anti-patriarchal--I'll reconsider my stance on that issue.

What we see in After Stonewall, is an entirely uncritical examination of marriage, the military, and its smaller scale enterprise, the city police force. There's never any suggestion that these institutions are problematic beyond being exclusionary.

The fundamental problem with CRAP isn't that it is exclusionary to queer people. The problem is that it is genocidal, gynocidal, and ecocidal. The problem is that it will only accept any outside group in if the outside group agrees to not challenge the core values and practices of CRAP.

I reject as inhumane any social justice work that doesn't address the atrocities which inhere in racist heteropatriarchies, including the ones called the U.S., the UK, and Australia.

If you watch After Stonewall, notice how there's no analysis of what gay men wish for lesbian women to be other than not around or care-givers. The film is carefully structured to not get into how some lesbians fought to expose the white and male supremacy of dominant sexuality and its production; instead this part of our history is written off as being co-opted by the Right, which was never the case. What was the case was that the Conservatives and the Liberals, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, didn't want anything done to stop male access to women. Neither political group has ever sought to stop male access to women.

As I consider issues that are present before me within queer community, one of them remains the entitlements men and males have to claim the following as "ours": women, including women's bodies, energy, and support. To object to an idea that males and men should have full and complete access to women, for nurture, for cooking, for cleaning, for manual labor, for getting water, for child-rearing, is to be perceived as many things, and among them "selfish" or "transphobic". So this leads me to ask my trans and intergender sibs, what is our position on men and males having unmitigated access to and the right to appropriate women, including women's bodies? In what ways do we critique a medical and psychiatric model that empowers grossly misogynist industries and institutions to reproduce women's body parts--fake ones--and pretend they are just the same as female-born women's bodies? I ask this about our support of doctors who are in the business of surgically constructed so-called female body parts onto and within female adults, male adults, intersex children or adults, or transsexual adults?

What is our political position on whites having access to and the right to appropriate Indigenous people, cultures, and land? In what ways do our efforts make Indigenous women on reservation land freer from rape by white men, for example? Or is that outside our sphere of concern?

What is our political position on the force the police and military use to beat and kill people? Do we stand with the police and military, only because some of our own are allowed to serve? What other reasons do we have for standing with them? They commit racist, genocidal atrocity daily, do they not?

What is our political position on capitalism that is ecocidal, disproportionately poisoning and polluting the land where poor and Indigenous people live? Do we stand with corporate industries and businesses because some of our own are in upper management within them? Or because the richest and whitest males among us can live in various places around the world, considered "for the taking" by anyone with enough money?

What is our political position on slavery, trafficking, and pimping? Do we stand with the most harmed around the world or with the most liberal and privileged among us, on these issues?

After watching some skewed telling of "our" story, I have to conclude that Barbara Smith was right: our LGBTIA movement died with the third march on Washington. And nothing radical or revolutionary has been done in our name since.

That the current struggle is visibility for cis gender and trans people who are queer, without any questioning at all about male entitlements to act out white het male supremacist sexuality and to take possession of women's bodies, or facsimiles of them, without any interrogation about the role male supremacy, white supremacy, anti-Indigenism, heterosexism, and capitalism play in shaping our desires, identities, efforts, and endeavors, ought to sound some loud alarms. Are we listening for them?

I hear some queer theorists speak of the need to "queer up" society. To make it "less straight". What does that mean, if we attempt to unpack those expressions and rephrase them in terms that distill how much white and male supremacy and corporate capitalism live in them?

Are we still wanting to argue that gay males are "real men"? And if so, why? Are we still wanting to argue that adults are either real men or real women, and if so, why? What is "a real woman"? Can anyone in queer circles answer that in ways that are anti-racist, pro-Indigenist, and anti-heteropatriarchal?

Are we supposed to care that Queer Theory and Queer Studies is largely if not entirely anti-feminist, anti-activist, anti-radical, and anti-Indigenist? Which queer people are we fighting for? White radical lesbian feminists? Lesbian feminists of color? First Nations? American Indians? If none of those people, what are the ethics that guides our courses of organised political action? Who does our activism exist to serve? If Queer Theorists largely reject the tenets and activist aims of radical feminism, what does it replace it with that ensures that white male supremacy is challenged and transformed? Can any Queer theorist or academician answer this question?

If we achieve legal equality with our masters and oppressors in a legally corrupt State that is perpetually at war against women, at war against the poor, at war against U.S.-located people of color including immigrants, at war against Indigenous, Brown, Black, and Asian people worldwide, what and who are we?

I'd say we're still worshiping at the alter of that giant white cock called The Washington Monument, just like in the image above.

Sexism Becomes US: An examination of corporate media culture's racist heteropatriarchal version of "feminism"

image is from AlterNet, here
I've never been a huge fan of pink or blue. The very sight of the cover above kind of makes me ill. I especially hate how pink is used to sell things to girls and women. A Cherokee man I know, who is married to a white woman, is the primary parent to their daughter. He's hoping she'll grow up to be lesbian. He knows what white men do to girls and women, and also to boys. But his spouse is into teaching their daughter how to be "a girl" even though she, herself, hated acting "like a girl" when she was young. So when Christmas comes around, as it tends to do each year, you can bet that she and her family will have invested money in purchasing all kinds of plastic, stupid CRAP designed to make their female child into "a girl" as the dominant U.S. defines the term.

I didn't play with trucks when I was a child. I also shunned sports. I was not, in that sense, "a good boy". I'm not convinced I was a boy at all. But neither was I a girl. Dollhouses held no fascination for me. I was into insects. And card games. And television--lots and lots of television. I've also preferred purple and green, most of my life.

I've also never been a fan of prudishness or promiscuity, corporate Christian preaching or crass commercial pimping. The two options most held out to me by the Conservative White Religious Right and the Liberal Left have been so lacking in humanity, dignity, and justice, that I can scarcely imagine why they attract as many people as they do. Neither one offers us any course of action intended to lead to liberation out of CRAP on Earth. To find such roadmaps, one has to look to people and to books which refuse to accept Western Civilisation as intrinsically good.

Western Civilisation has never been anything other than an atrocity committer with a semblance of sociable culture to temporarily sustain its wanton unsustainability. It was malignant upon initial growth and it will likely destroy everything in its ignoble quest to exploit and consume the world.

Within Western Civilisation, dominant U.S. culture has produced some good things, imo, such as some good music and movies, some good activists and artists. But by and large, it has done little for the world, other than to possess and poison it.

In a new book by Susan J. Douglas, Enlightened Sexism, the attributes of the U.S.'s mass-produced corporate media culture that ought to be glaringly obnoxious and blaringly noxious are these: overwhelmingly patriarchal, unrepentantly heterosexist, unapologetically white supremacist, and globally capitalist.

Publisher Comments:
Women today are inundated with conflicting messages from the mass media: they must either be strong leaders in complete command or sex kittens obsessed with finding and pleasing a man. In The Rise Of Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas, one of America's most entertaining and insightful cultural critics, takes readers on a spirited journey through the television programs, popular songs, movies, and news coverage of recent years, telling a story that is nothing less than the cultural biography of a new generation of American women.

Revisiting cultural touchstones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Survivor to Desperate Housewives, Douglas uses wit and wisdom to expose these images of women as mere fantasies of female power, assuring women and girls that the battle for equality has been won, so there's nothing wrong with resurrecting sexist stereotypes—all in good fun, of course. She shows that these portrayals not only distract us from the real-world challenges facing women today but also drive a wedge between baby-boom women and their millennial daughters.

In seeking to bridge this generation gap, Douglas makes the case for casting aside these retrograde messages, showing us how to decode the mixed messages that restrict the ambitions of women of all ages. And what makes The Rise Of Enlightened Sexism such a pleasure to read is Douglas's unique voice, as she blends humor with insight and offers an empathetic and sisterly guide to the images so many American women love and hate with equal measure.
As companion critical books to the one excerpted by AlterNet below, I also recommend reading Pornland, by Gail Dines, Conquest by Andrea Smith, and Black Sexual Politics, by Patricia Hill Collins. What follows is cross-posted from AlterNet.

Sex R Us: The Rise of Enlightened Sexism

The following is an excerpt from Susan J. Douglas' new book, The Rise of Enlightened Sexism (St. Martin's Press, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Susan J. Douglas

“Can you unbutton the top button of those jeans and push them down?” instructs the unseen horny male pervert behind the camera. The nervous young woman in the TV ad is poised to oblige. In a companion ad, a young girl appears to be auditioning for a triple-X-rated film; the off-camera degenerate tells her not to be nervous as she slowly unbuttons her dress. In yet another, the leering voice urges a young man with a blond pompadour to tear off his shirt, saying, “You got a real nice look. How old are you? Are you strong? You think you could rip that shirt off of you? That’s a real nice body. You work out? I can tell.”

Speaking for much of the nation, one reporter observed that these commercials looked like “runaway kids coaxed from bus stations by exploitative adults.”

When right-wing conservative religious groups and liberal feminists find themselves spooning in ideological bed together, chances are that it is about one thing: sex. And that was the case when Calvin Klein—who in 1980 gave us 15-year-old Brooke Shields purring, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins”— released a series of print and TV ads in August 1995 uniformly denounced as bordering on kiddie porn. The soft-core ads in magazines like Mademoiselle featured slim, white, mostly blond pubescent models in various stages of undress, their hands in their jean pockets or hooked over the waistband to enable them to pull the jeans down even lower. They looked directly and provocatively into the camera. The TV ads described above and showcased on MTV made people especially crazed because they looked like D-level stag films from the 1960s. (Inquiring minds can see the ads on YouTube.)

Outrage roiled from the conservative American Family Association and the Catholic League to women heading rape crisis centers, as critics ventured that maybe this pedophilia marketing strategy was a bit too debased, even for American advertising. Klein quickly yanked the campaign and within two weeks the Justice Department had launched an investigation into whether his use of underage models violated child pornography laws. Undaunted, Klein still slapped giant photos of young men— but this time in their early 20s—wearing nothing but bulging briefs and hair gel on the billboards of Times Square. In 1999, to promote Calvin underwear for children (what happened to underpants by Carter with dinosaurs on them?), he launched another campaign featuring high-definition black-and-white photos of boys who appeared to be around 4, and girls who appeared to be between 4 and 7, jumping on a sofa in nothing but their Calvins. This time the ads were pulled within 24 hours.

Despite the controversy surrounding the Klein campaigns, they were a harbinger of two trends that gained considerable steam in the late-1990s: the rampant return to the often degrading sexual objectification of women, and the increasing sexualization of children, especially girls. Books with titles likeStriptease Culture, Pornified, So Sexy So Soon, andThe Lolita Effect have documented the mainstreaming of pornography and its lopsided negative effects on females. Here’s what our increasingly pornified media have been telling girls and women: dress like a streetwalker but just say no—or dress like Carrie Bradshaw (whatweresome of those outfits?!) and just say yes. Old-fashioned American prudery has always been an important component of keeping women in their place. So has pornography. A culture that is prudish and pornographic—how’s that for a contradiction to navigate?

The pornification continued to expand and to move down the age chain. The Bratz dolls, launched in 2001, with their Sunset Strip hooker outfits, make Barbie look like a priss (although a very stacked priss); the selling of thongs that read “eye candy” to 7-year-olds; the transformation of Britney Spears from teen pop star to midriff -baring, breast-implanted hootchie mama; the promotion of pole dancing as a great new exercise regimen for women; “Little Diva” make over parties for girls as young as 5—well, even those of us who truly believe that sex is and should be a healthy, normal, pleasurable part of life started getting very uneasy.

As a result, a new female icon began to take center stage: the sexpert. ThinkCosmo, Carrie Bradshaw, Monica Lewinsky. The sexpert knows a lot about sex, is comfortable with sex, initiates and enjoys sex on an equal footing with men, and talks a lot about sex with her girlfriends. The fantasy was that because of feminism and girl power, there was a new “sex positive” environment for women, and the double standard had been completely eliminated. The reality, of course, was different: this liberation came at a price. In exchange for this freedom—indeed, because of this freedom—young women were supposed to dress like call girls and had to start learning how to do this at an ever younger age. The sexpert persona came, in part, from the desires of young women for sexual freedom and equality, to enjoy sex without condemnation, and to have their sexuality seen as healthy and normal. But this America, where there is little that can’t be repackaged and sold back to us for a profit.

Here’s the twist that emerged. Some young women wanted sexual equity with men: that’s a claim for equal power. They didn’t want to be mere sex objects, they wanted to be active sexual agents. But while true and total sexual equality between men and women is still too threatening, it has nonetheless proved lucrative to flatter women that they have it. So the media began to highlight this message: it’s through sex and sexual display that women really have the power to get what they want. And because the true path to power comes from being an object of desire, girls and women should now actively choose—even celebrate and embrace—being sex objects. That’s the mark of a truly confident, can-do girl: one whose objectification isn’t imposed from without, but comes from within. You have to admit, this is a very slick contortion.

The best way to gain this kind of power is to cater to what men want. And you’re not acquiescing to men or to patriarchal sexual requirements: by submitting, you’re in the driver’s seat! Thus, in the hands of, say, Cosmo, the sexpert appreciates the ultimate requirement to please him(even at her expense or discomfort if necessary), to reassure him about his performance, and to constantly monitor and refine her ability to look sexy and to do what he wants and needs. This persona of the sexpert is almost always white, young, heterosexual, slim, busty, beautiful, and middle- or upper-middle-class (i.e., the media’s target demographic). She is ideal for the age of enlightened sexism because she is a hybrid of empowerment
and objectification. In this way, women’s hopes for sexual equity have become wrapped up in glossy images that sold jeans, underwear, magazines, music videos, and TV shows and allowed Victoria’s Secret to conquer the malls of America. And as the image and prevalence of the sexpert colonized more media outlets and hailed ever and ever younger girls, her image polarized women and men, especially along generational lines.

Take me—I was in my 20s and single in the 1970s, during the era that the movieBoogie Nights infamously brought to life. And I did believe, then and now, that sexual equality goes hand in hand, as it were, with political and economic equality. So I didn’t want my daughter, when she came of age, to be confronting the double standard or to be told that she had to figure out how to look sexy and then “just say no.”

That said, I didn’t feel it was necessary for her to be invited by the radio to sing along, at age 14, to Eamon’s classy 2004 hit record “Fuck It, I Don’t Want You Back,” with the immortal lyrics “Fuck what I said, it don’t mean shit now” and “Fuck you, you hoe.” Ditto for Shaggy’s “Wasn’t Me,” which urged her to “Picture this, we were both butt-naked banging on the bathroom floor.” Or there was 50 Cent bragging metaphorically, “I got the magic stick,” which evoked Lil’ Kim’s somewhat less allegorical response, “I got the magic clit.” The Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” suddenly seemed like an Osmond Brothers song.

Now, if you don’t think that something really sick is going on in our country about girls—I mean really little girls—learning that their main asset is strutting their stuff, then you haven’t watched TLC’s abominable Toddlers and Tiaras, the behind-the-scenes reality TV show about beauty pageants for girls just out of (or maybe still in) diapers. With their spray-on tans, “flippers” (fake teeth inserted into the mouth to hide baby teeth gaps), fake eyelashes, and bare midriffs, these babies learn how to swivel their hips and push out their chests as they sashay before judges, including balding older white guys, as if they were Gypsy Rose Lee. Gross. How did we get here?

Support AlterNet by clicking here to purchase a copy of The Rise of Enlightened Sexism through our partner, Powell's, an independent bookstore.

Author, columnist and cultural critic Susan J. Douglas is the Catherine Neafie Kellogg professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan.